NO - NO - NO !!
Scooter (motorino) rules are simple in Rome - NO RULES! For people who live here – and who have been ”taught” this system – this can be a great advantage. For everyone else, it can be life-threatening! Motorini follow their own path, weaving through cars, driving on the opposite side of the center line, (against oncoming traffic), not stopping a red lights (That was for me?), driving on the sidewalks, driving through crosswalks along with the pedestrians, parking anywhere (including the sidewalks), with the primarily goal of getting from point A to point B as fast as humanly possible. There’s always that age-old question in the US… if you come to a red light at 2 AM and you can see for miles in all directions, do you stop and wait for the light to change or just roll through it… In Rome, they think this question is ridiculous as many motorini drivers are not stopping at 12 noon – much less 2 AM!
People who rent a scooter to see Rome must have a death wish!
The sale of bottled water is a thriving business in Rome. Generally, we do not drink the tap water, even though it is, of course, treated. The problem is with antiquated plumbing through which the water passes. The very best drinking water is right at the street fountains that are there for that purpose - not to be confused with the miriad artistic fountains you will see. And, there is a way to drink from them.
Fill water bottles here - you will be drinking Rome's best quality and safest water - and saving a few Euro a day in the process. .
Here are two photos of the water fountain in the Piazza beside the Pantheon. Signor Nasoni - the Romans call these water faucets that you see throughout the streets of Rome "big nose" - just stop the water flow with a finger and the water will come up through a little hole in top of the faucet. If you drink from the water spigot at the bottom - well, that's where our little doggies drink also.
Italians in every city I have lived - but more particularly in Rome - love to play the free ride game and NEVER buy a ticket to ride the local bus.
Well, as reported in the journals recently, starting in November 2009, "the experiment" will be initiated. Conductors will ask to see tickets on seven routes that cross the central areas of Rome - #’s 46, 49, 64, 70, 81, 490, and 492. Others may be added later as the scope of the test is enlarged. Tram lines may also be included as the test broadens. These bus lines were specifically selected as they have consistently heavy traffic with not only tourists (many headed to the Vatican) but also the many locals coming to downtown Rome.
ATAC seems to think that the “cost” of having a conductor ON the buses will be offset by the expected increase in ticket revenues. Could it be that so many people are not paying?! LOL
Check the ATAC site below for the various transit passes available - unless, of course, you want to join the locals free ride game!
The biggest nuisance - second only to the heat is the small but dastardly zanzara (not to be confused with zingara - which is the gypsy - also a nuisance) mosquito. I remember well my friend's look of shock when I said I had just been bitten by a ZINGARA!! These little winged devils generally hang out where there is shade and water but they are everywhere in Rome, and if your skin is sensitive to their bites you will spend your holiday cursing them. Plan ahead: pack insect repellent - or, better yet, buy that in Rome - buy an anti-mosquito plug-in for your room - take extra B vitamins. Green tea skin products, eating garlic and drinking tequila are other suggested remedies - drinking tequila is definitely preferable as garlic may keep our fine Italian men at a distance (although they are known to ignore such small and great negatives in their pursuits)!
We rented a car from Europcar at Fiumicino Airport. We did not get a receipt for a full tank when we returned it. Two weeks after returning home we received two charges: one for refueling and a second for the fuel they claim to have had to replace. Scam, of course, but we have no receipts from the day we last refilled it - time and date and location would allow us to contest the charges. Typical scam that gives all Italians a bad rap.
Be sure to take plenty of euros. I found it easiest to pay with cash. A few times we used our credit card, but there was a 3 percent charge each time we used it so we only did so sparingly.
We brought some American cash that we had converted to euros mid-week. Next time we will convert everything in the U.S. before leaving so we can have lower conversion fees.
Everybody heard about the long lines in front of the Vatican Museum and every tourist hopes to find a short line when getting there. I can say that we were not among the lucky ones and when we got there the wait was more than 2 hours.
Most guidebooks tell you to go there around 1pm in the afternoon on Wed and Thu in order to find shorter lines. I guess now the tourists really pay attention to what the guidebooks say and the lines are getting longer and longer on these days too. I could not capture all the line since it was going around the building 2 times, but imagine that the line you see in my pictures is not even half of the actual line we would have had to stand in.
Since we really did not want to spend 2 hours in line, we decided to book a tour and get inside the museum in about 15 minutes instead of 2 hours. We went with VoxTours (booked the tour when we got to Vatican and saw the lines) and paid 20 Euros per person (plus 5 Euros deposit for the headphones). The tour lasted 2 hours and it pointed out all the important pieces you should not miss while visiting the Vatican museum. You are free to stay longer in the museum if you want and you can also break away from the group if you feel like wandering inside by yourself.
In the old town almost all the streets are pebbled and narrow. You need to wear a comfortable pair of shoes (flat or orthopedic soles are the best) since you will be doing lots of walking and you really need to focus on the buildings around you instead of every step you make. They can become slippery when raining.
Traffic is limited in the old part of the city, but you will still see some cars and scooters on the narrow streets. Several times during our vacation we had to find a spot on the narrow street where we could walk forward since there were several cars and scooters parked and blocking the street.
If you are in Rome and you want to buy Murano glass pieces (and who doesn't?) make sure you get the genuine stuff and not the "made in China" one. There are not too many shops around that sell only genuine Murano glass pieces. You will notice the pieces made in China are way cheaper than the genuine ones, so make sure you know what you get before buying Murano glass pieces at a bargain price (the pieces sold in Campo de Fiori by street vendors are all made in China!).
All the reputable stores who carry both, genuine pieces and the ones made in China, will have a sign in the window indicating the genuine Murano glass pieces.
There are also few good stores in Rome that sell only genuine Murano glass pieces. You will easily identify them by the elegant look, their prices (don't let this stop you from checking it out; you will be able to find here pieces that start at 25 Euros) and lack of tourist crowds.
Public bathrooms are hard to find in Rome. All the tourist places have them, but you really do not want to use them unless you are desperate. They are not very clean and they do have a strong unpleasant smell. If you have to use them, prepare for long lines (especially at Colosseum and Vatican Museum). Make sure you have toilet paper with you (just in case they are out of it) and a hand sanitizer lotion.
Most restaurants have clean bathrooms that you can use ONLY if you are a customer. They do turn tourists away, so don't be surprised if this happens to you.
Booking an apartment seemed like a great idea and I found Apartment Argentina located at Piazza Mattei near the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. It was wonderfully described and within walking distance of all Roman highlights. I booked the apartment on 1/17/08 for 9/25/08 to 10/2/08 through rome-accom.com & spent 7 months planning/drafting itineraries from this great location. Upon arrival I was informed by rome-accom.com that the apt owner "double-booked" the apt and did not care; we were forced to another location (very undesirable and near no restaurants, piazzas, etc). Please do not trust this particular apartment owner (Apartment Argentina @ Piazza Mattei 10) and be leary of booking apartments if this is considered no "big deal" in Rome. With some due respect to the rental agency, they did offer 250 euro discount and free transportation to/from the airport but this did not make up for one miserable week in Rome due to the alternative apartment's awful location and the 45 steps to reach the apartment.
...try not to do what a lot of Romans and tourists do. What do I mean? I mean, taking pictures inside the Sistene Chapel. There's a reason for this. You're inside one of the most protected sites on Earth and not too mention that what's above you is the work of Michaelangelo that he painstakingly labored over for years. Can you imagine the thousands of flashes everyday would slowly do? The guards inside the Sistene mean business as well! They reinforce the no-picture rule big time. Remember, NO NOISE! This includes talking and your cell phones. Try and be respectful inside this place. Unless you want your expensive camera taken away by Vatcian security (which I didn't see when I was there but I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate).
When you buy something in a shop or eat in a restaurant you should be given a scrontrino or ricevuta fiscale. Technically YOU can be fined if you leave the premises without one.
So if you have paid in a shop and think about leaving without the receipt, don`t. Most Italians are strong on this. You`ve probably noticed that your pocket or purse is full of paper receipts when you are in Italy. That`s how it should be! :-)
Want a fantastic present from Rome. Want a story to tell all your friends when you get home? Well a big fat FINE for breaking Italian Law and buying fake designer bags and the like is not my idea of a good time. The guys you see selling them are usually exploited African men who get very little out of it. The Police target the BUYERS as you can pay the fine, they can’t. And then there is the rain. A lot of these ‘Gucci’ leather items are of poor quality and bizarre stitching. Get it wet and it may just fall apart. I do not like the prices the top name designers charge, but you are not doing yourself or anyone else any favours if you buy it. It’s a crime. Don’t ruin your holiday by giving the Police your hard earned spending money!
Talk about overkill. I saw this very large and heavy sign in a department store near an escalator. It was leaning to the side and could have fallen over and killed someone! I mean, look at the horrendous issues that seem to plague this poor escalator. It even has a few ideas I have never even seen tried before. I mean, this must be a stunt escalator or something. ROME ESCALATORS – BEWARE!
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